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"The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends" book cover

Dunno, or Know-Nothing or Ignoramus (Russian: Незнайка, Neznayka that is Don'tknowka (ka - the Russian suffix here for drawing up the whole name in a cheerful form); from the Russian phrase "не знаю" ("ne znayu"), don't know) is a character created by Soviet children's writer Nikolay Nosov.[1][2][3] The idea of the character comes from the books of Palmer Cox.[4]

Dunno, recognized by his bright blue hat, canary-yellow trousers, orange shirt, and green tie, is the title character of Nosov's world-famous trilogy, The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends (1954), Dunno in Sun City (1958), and Dunno on the Moon (1966). There have been several movie adaptations of the books.[5]


His names were translated differently in various languages:

Plot summaries[edit]

The three fairy tale novels follow the adventures of the little fictional childlike people living in "Flower City". They are described to be sized like "medium cucumbers", a quality that has earned them the name "shorties" or "mites". All fruits and vegetables growing in Flower City are, however, their regular size, so the Shorties invent sophisticated methods of growing and harvesting them. In Nosov's universe, each shorty occupies his/her own niche in the community and is named accordingly.

The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends[edit]

The illustration for The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends. Postal card, Russia, 2008.

In Flower Town, Dunno gets into heaps of trouble. First, he becomes convinced that the sun is falling and manages to scare half the town before Doono, Dunno's brainy antithesis (his name is derived from the Russian "знаю", I know) clears everything up. Then he proceeds to try music, art, and poetry, but his unorthodox endeavors only irritate his friends, and he is forced to quit. Next, ignoring the warnings of Swifty, Dunno crashes Bendum and Twistum's car into the Cucumber River and ends up in the hospital. He then gets into a fight with his best friend Gunky for not ending his friendships with the girl-shorties Pee-Wee and Tinkle.

Doono proposes to build a hot air balloon and go on an adventure. He and his friends begin extracting rubber, weaving the basket, and making emergency parachutes out of dandelions. A large rubber balloon is then inflated, fastened to the basket, and filled with hot air. The parachutes and other supplies are loaded, and sixteen seats are accommodated for. Everyone helps with preparations except for Dunno, who is too busy bossing everyone around and providing useless advice. The day of the departure comes, and Doono, Dunno, and fourteen other Mites come on board. Shot takes with him his dog, Dot. By this time, half the town still does not believe the balloon will be able to fly, but the balloon successfully rises off the ground, and all the shorties of Flower Town cheer. Gunky waves to Dunno from the ground but Dunno shuns him.

The balloon eventually crashes near the Greenville, inhabited only by girl-Mites (boy-Mites had left for the Kite Town where they can carry out freely their boyish activities), who took balloonists to the hospital to care for them. As Doono (who escaped from the balloon by parachute before the crash) is absent, Dunno describes himself to girl-Mites as balloon inventor and boy-Mites' leader. When he visits the hospital, he talks boy-Mites into supporting his version of facts, in exchange promising to help them out of hospital as soon as possible. With the time, Dunno's lies are discovered and he's mocked by boy-Mites, but consoled by girl-Mites.

Dunno in Sun City[edit]

After receiving a magic wand from a wizard, Dunno, Pee-Wee, and Pachkulya Pyostrenkiy wish for a car and go on a road trip to Sun City. During their journey, they see many technological marvels like futuristic cars, bizarre architecture, televisions that can communicate with you, computerized chess players, etc. They also run into some trouble in the city, particularly when Dunno uses his magic wand to turn a Shorty into a donkey, and then turns two donkeys and a hinny into Shorties.

Dunno on the Moon[edit]

Donno discovers that his moon rock (that he obtained from his previous travel to the Moon) creates a no gravity zone when interacting with a magnetic field. He uses this knowledge to build a rocket ship that will go to the moon much more easily because of being virtually weightless. However, Dunno and Roly-Poly are not allowed to go; Dunno, because of his undisciplined behavior, and Roly-Poly, because of his inability to cope with non-gravity effects and excessive food consumption. The night before the rocket launch, Dunno and Roly-Poly sneak into the ship and accidentally launch the rocket.

When they arrive on the moon, Dunno and Roly-Poly become separated and Dunno falls through a cave and discovers a whole separate society of mites living inside the moon. However, unlike on Earth, these mites do not have "giant food" (that is, their fruit and vegetables are sized in proportion to the mites, rather than to normal humans like on Earth). The moon society is a corrupt capitalistic state: the millionaires control all the factories and squander their money away on unnecessary luxuries, the police are violent, corrupt, and stupid, everyday citizens struggle to survive and live in rat infested barracks.

Dunno gets thrown into jail for not having money to pay for his meal at a restaurant and is mistaken for a wanted criminal by the stupid police officers. In jail he meets Miga - a fast-talking schemer, and Kozlik - a poor, gentle worker. Upon getting released from jail, Miga introduces Kozlik and Dunno to Zhulio - another con man, and the four decide to start a company selling stocks to raise money to get "giant seeds" from Dunno's rocket ship and plant them on the moon. The stocks sell well and soon the four friends have lots of money. However, some of the local millionaire businessmen are worried that giant food will mean that poor workers can get richer and the millionaires may lose money. Their leader, Spruts, convinces Miga and Zhulio to steal the money and run leaving Dunno and Kozlik jobless and penniless.

Meanwhile, Roly-Poly finds the same cave and also goes inside the moon. However, he quickly discovers salt and opens his own business making and selling it (salt was unknown for moon inhabitants). He gets rich but then goes bankrupt when the price of salt becomes too low because of a dumping scheme. Then Roly-Poly becomes an average worker.

Dunno and Kozlik work odd jobs but are still starving and living in poverty in a rat infested basement. Kozlik gets bit by a rat and becomes sick. Just then, Dunno gets a job as a dog nanny for a rich woman, Mrs Minoga ("lamprey"), and makes enough money for a doctor for Kozlik who slowly recovers, but Mrs. Minoga finds out that Dunno took her dogs to the rat infested basement and fires him. Dunno and Kozlik then end up living on the street. Since Kozlik has lost his hat and Dunno lost his shoes they are breaking the law and get sent to Fool's Island which has a toxic atmosphere that turns all the people there into sheep which are then sheared for their wool.

Later Dunno's friends come to Moon with giant seeds, which results in elimination of poverty and establishment of a communism-like economical system and saves Dunno and Kozlik from Fool's Island.


Flower Town Dwellers[edit]

Russian stamp with the image of Dunno (1992)

Named for its abundance of flowers, all streets are named after flowers as well. The Flower City is located by the Cucumber River, on the shore of which many cucumbers grow. Here boy-shorties and girl-shorties live together, but often have trouble getting along.[1]

  • Dunno (Незнайка, from Russian "не знаю", "I don't know") - the title character of the trilogy and the most infamous personality in Flower City. As an anti-hero, this boy-shorty is both ignorant, lazy, rude, and conceited and at the same time curious, kind, enterprising, and unbelievably lucky. He is highly reminiscent of the popular Russian folk hero Ivan the Fool, a flawed young man who always manages to come out on top. He also resembles Khlestakov of Nikolai Gogol.[2]
  • Gunky (Гунька) - a boy-shorty, Dunno's best friend
  • Doono (Знайка, from "знаю", "I know") - a boy-shorty scientist, the smartest of the boy-shorties, often adopts the leadership role
  • Bendum (Винтик, or "little bolt") and Twistum (Шпунтик, from "little peg") - boy-shorty mechanics
  • Trills (Гусля, from "гусли", or "gusli") - a boy-shorty musician
  • Blobs (Тюбик, or "tube") - a boy-shorty painter
  • Pee-Wee (Кнопочка, or "little button") - a girl-shorty who becomes best friends with Dunno
  • Daisy (Ромашка, or "camomile") - a girl-shorty
  • Swifty (Торопыжка, from "торопиться", or "to hurry") - a boy-shorty who is always in a hurry
  • Scatterbrain (Растеряйка, from "растерять", or "to lose") - a boy-shorty who always loses and forgets things
  • Dr. Pillman (Доктор Пилюлькин, from "пилюля", or "pill") - a boy-shorty physician
  • Roly-Poly (Пончик, or "doughnut") - a very chubby boy-shorty who likes to eat sweets
  • Treacly-Sweeter (Сиропчик, or "little syrup") - a very chubby boy-shorty who likes to drink carbonated water with syrup
  • Shot (Пулька, from "пуля", "bullet") - a boy-shorty hunter
  • Dot (Булька, from "бульдог", "бультерьер", or "bulldog", "bull terrier") - Shot's dog
  • Posey (Цветик, or "bloomer") - a boy-shorty poet
  • Pachkulya Pyostrenky (Пачкуля Пёстренький, or "dirty and garishly spotted") - a boy-shorty who is always dirty and never surprised at anything
  • Grumps (Ворчун, from "ворчать", "to grumble") - a boy-shorty who always grumbles and complains
  • Mums (Молчун, from "молчать", "to be silent") - a boy-shorty who is always quiet
  • Tinkle (Мушка, from "муха", or "fly" [insect]) - a girl-shorty
  • Glass-Eye (Стекляшкин, from "стекляшка", or "piece of glass") - a boy-shorty astronomer
  • Kapelka (Капелька, or "little drop") - a girl-shorty who cries when it rains

Greenville Dwellers[edit]

Named for its abundance of trees, only girl-shorties live here.

  • Honeysuckle (Медуница, "lungwort") - a girl-shorty doctor, head of the Greenville hospital
  • Cornflower (Синеглазка, from "синие глаза", "blue eyes") - a pretty blue-eyed girl-shorty
  • Snowdrop (Снежинка, "snowflake") - a pretty fair-skinned girl-shorty
  • Blossom (Самоцветик, from "самоцвет", "gem") - a girl-shorty poet
  • Bunny (Заинька, "little hare") and Chippy (Белочка, from "little squirrel") - girl-shorties with animals embroidered on their dresses
  • Minny (Галочка, "little jackdaw") - a girl-shorty with long black hair
  • Fluff (Кубышка, a kind of jar or water lily Nymphaea lutea) - a chubby girl-shorty
  • Kitty (Кисонька, "kitty") - a girl-shorty
  • Thistle (Соломка, "little straw") - a smart girl-shorty who bred watermelons as well as other fruit

Kite Town Dwellers[edit]

Named for its abundance of decorative kites, only boy-shorties live here.

  • Nails (Гвоздик, "little nail" [the metal kind]) - a boy-shorty who makes a lot of trouble
  • Pretzel (Бублик, "bagel") - a boy-shorty who drives a car
  • Taps (Шурупчик, "little screw") - a boy-shorty inventor
  • Slick (Смекайло, from "смекать", "to grasp quickly") - a pretentious boy-shorty writer

Sun City Dwellers[edit]

Named for its perpetually sunny weather, it is a shorty utopia noted for its incredible technological advances.

  • Kalachik (Калачик, sort of a larger bagel) - a boy-shorty farming equipment operator
  • Listik (Листик, "small sheet of paper") - a boy-shorty who loves to read and whom Dunno magically turned into a donkey
  • Bukovka (Буковка, "little letter" [of the alphabet]) - a girl-shorty who loves to read, Listik's best friend
  • Liliya (Лилия, "lily") - a girl-shorty, director of hotel Malvaziya
  • Pegasik (Пегасик, "small Pegasus"), Brykun (Брыкун, from "брыкаться", "to kick"), and Kaligula (Калигула, "Caligula") - two donkeys and a hinny whom Dunno magically turned into boy-shorties
  • Chubchik (Чубчик, "forelock") - a boy-shorty gardener
  • Yorshik (Ёршик, "little ruff") - a boy-shorty, leader of the mass of passerby that Pegasik and Dunno sprayed with water
  • Svistulkin (Свистулькин, from "свистулька", "clay whistle") and Karaulkin (Караулькин, from "to be on watch") - boy-shorty policemen
  • Kubik (Кубик, "block, brick, little cube") - a boy-shorty architect
  • Klyopka (Клёпка, from "rivet") - a boy-shorty engineer
  • Fuksiya (Фуксия, "fuchsia") and Selyodochka (Селёдочка, "small herring") - girl-shorty scientists
  • Nitochka (Ниточка, "little thread") - a girl-shorty modeller and chess player
  • Karasik (Карасик, "little crucian") - a boy-shorty clothing factory worker and actor
  • Igolochka (Иголочка, "little needle") - a girl-shorty clothing factory worker
  • Figura (Фигура, "[chess] piece") - a boy-shorty Sun City chess champion

Moon Dwellers[edit]

Names of Moon dwellers and Moon cities resemble English, German, Italian and Spanish words amalgamated with Russian roots, e.g. Davilon (from давить — to suppress and ВавилонBabylon), Grabenberg (from грабить — to rob and …berg — a typical German-like toponym), Brekhenville (from брехать — to lie or to bark (slang) and …ville — typical French-like toponym), Los Svinos (from свинья — a pig and Los.. — a typical Spanish-like toponym prefix, e.g. Los Angeles) etc.[6]


  • Gryazing (Грязинг, from «грязь» — dirt)
  • Spruts (Спрутс, from спрут — a giant octopus)
  • Dubs (Дубс, from «дуб» — «oak», also «dumb man» in Russian)
  • Zhading (Жадинг, from «жадина» — «greedy person»)
  • Skuperfield (Скуперфильд, an amalgamated word from скупердяй — niggard and the English surname Copperfield)

Police and justice (whose names share the same suffix):

  • Figl (Фигль) — a street patrol
  • Migl (Мигль, from «фигли-мигли», figli-migli — shenanigans) — an investigator
  • Drigl (Дригль) — a jailer
  • Vrigl (Вригль, an amalgamated word from врать — to lie and the English surname Wrigley) — a judge


  • Vikhor (Вихор, «forelock») and Striga (Стрига, from «стриженный» — cropped) — Dunno’s jailmates
  • Miga (Мига, from «миг» — a brief instant, or «мигать» — «to blink») — a cheater who meets Dunno in jail and with Zhulio’s help talks him into founding a «Giant Plants Company»
  • Zhulio (Жулио, an amalgamated word from жулик — a swindler, cheater, and the Spanish name Julio) — a firearms-store owner, Miga’s friend
  • Krabs (Крабс, from «краб» — «crab») — Sproots' personal assistant

Other citizens:

  • Klops (Клопс, from «клоп» — a blood-sucking «bug» or «Heteroptera») — a rich Moon dweller whose property in Davilon Dunno first lands at
  • Fiks (Фикс) and Feks (Фекс) — Klops' valets
  • Kozlik (Козлик — a little goat) — a smart unemployed Moon dweller who quickly becomes Dunno’s friend after they meet in jail
  • Khaps (Хапс, from «хапать» — to grab) — a hotel owner in Davilon
  • Sedenky (Седенький, from «седой» — «grey-haired») — a poor Moon dweller sent by peasants to buy a «Giant Plants Company» share
  • Drakula (Дракула) — a rich Moon dweller, sea coast landlord who ruins Roly-Poly’s salt business by increasing prices to access salt crystals on his land
  • Minoga (Минога, «lamprey») — a rich Moon dweller who hires Dunno to care after her two dogs
  • Piskarik (Пискарик, from «пескарь» — «gudgeon»), Leshchik (Лещик, from «лещ» — «bream»), Somik (Сомик, from «сом» — «catfish»), Sudachok (Судачок, from «судак» — «perch») — poor Moon dwellers, waterpark employees who befriend Roly-Poly after he lost his wealth and forced to work in a waterpark to earn his living


  • Kolosok (Колосок, «little ear» [for example, of rye])


  • Tsirkul (Циркуль, from "compass") - a lanky and very renowned traveling bicyclist from the city of Katigoroshkin (Катигорошкин, from «катить горох», to roll a peas)
  • Wizard (Волшебник) - gave Dunno a magic wand

Themes & issues[edit]

An important characteristic of the Dunno trilogy is its heavily didactic nature. Nosov describes this as an effort to teach "honesty, bravery, camaraderie, willpower, and persistence" and discourage "jealousy, cowardice, mendacity, arrogance, and effrontery." Strong political undertones are also present. In addition to general egalitarianism and feminism, communist tendencies dominate the works. The first book takes the reader into a typical Soviet-like town, the second into a communist utopia, and the third into a capitalistic satire.[7][6] Nosov's captivating and humorous literary style has made his ideologies accessible to children and adults alike.

At the same time, the Canadian anthropologist and critique of civilization and education Layla AbdelRahim emphasizes the anti-disciplinary and anti-totalitarian aspect of the Dunno trilogy.[8]

Behind Dunno's apparent ignorance lies the exploring spirit that prefers learning through its own experience rather than acquiring institutionalized knowledge - in this regard Nosov points out that in everyday tasks Dunno succeeds perfectly. Dunno's encounters with Pillman and Doono - who knows everything - reveal the oppressive nature of medical and scientific authority.[8]



  1. ^ a b Miriam Morton (1967). A Harvest of Russian Children's Literature. University of California Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-520-01745-0.
  2. ^ a b Catriona Kelly (2007). Children's World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890-1991. Yale University Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-300-11226-9.
  3. ^ Axel Delwig (2012). Life in Moscow; Communism and now. Lulu.com. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-620-50117-7.
  4. ^ Ben Hellman (2013). Fairy Tales and True Stories: The History of Russian Literature for Children and Young People (1574 - 2010). BRILL. p. 528. ISBN 978-9-004-25638-5.
  5. ^ Tatiana Smorodinskaya (2013). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Russian Culture. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-78785-0.
  6. ^ a b Lawrence Grossberg, Della Pollock (1998). Cultural Studies - Vol 12.2. 11. Psychology Press. pp. 228–229. ISBN 978-0-415-18426-7.
  7. ^ Dana Percec (2016). A Serious Genre: The Apology of Children's Literature. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 134. ISBN 978-1-443-88966-7.
  8. ^ a b Layla AbdelRahim (2014). Children's Literature, Domestication, and Social Foundation: Narratives of Civilization and Wilderness. Routledge. p. First there was Dunno, then there were Rosenhan and Foucault. ISBN 978-1-135-10459-7.

External links[edit]